The FCC has approved the waiver of a current regulation that prohibits cell phones from using satellite airwaves and associated spectrum if not used to directly communicate with them.
The repeal approves of the business model by start up LightSquared, which seeks to build a nationwide LTE data network using satellite spectrum in tandem with conventional cellsites, while offering devices with hardware capable of using the terrestrial network for mobile broadband access across the country.
The company is currently conducting LTE trials in Baltimore, Denver, Las Vegas and Phoenix, with commercial launches planned by the third quarter of this year. LightSquared currently has access to 59 MHz of spectrum in the 1-2GHz L band and has stated that its network will consist of around 40,000 cellsites, covering 92 percent of the U.S. population by 2015.
GPS unit manufacturers and other companies reliant on GPS hardware had expressed concern with LightSquared’s business proposal and model, fearing that the network’s operation would cause interference between its satellites and those used to deliver GPS data, with the most recent concerns expressed by National Telecomminications Administration director Lawrence Strickling on January 12th in a letter to the FCC.
Lightsquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja had promised in a letter to the FCC this past Monday to work with the regulator to ensure that the LTE network would not interfere with the aforementioned GPS network as well as defense, maritime and aeronautical emergency communications.
The FCC issued the approval of the circumvention of the The Ancillary Terrestrial Component (ATC) earlier today despite the aforementioned concerns
LightSquared is majority owned and by the hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners, which has invested billions in order to launch its own wireless broadband network to lease access to potential wholesalers to turn around and resell access. LightSquared has yet to name any wholesale partners and has contracts with Nokia Siemens Networks for the terrestrial network hardware, while signing Nokia and Qualcomm as mobile hardware partners.